Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What happens to our Sporting Hero's?

Danyon Loader one of our greatest Olympic athletes used to work in a cafe on the strip in Christchurch. Two olympic golds and he had his hands in a sink. Ben Fouhy was on the news the other night, he's now working for a builder after "flopping" at the last games (you have to win to make it pay). Richard Ussher, clearly the best multisporter in the world, and one of the strongest adventure racers has just announced his switch to Ironman in search of a more comfortable (at least financially) lifestyle.

What about our winter Olympians? I think Anna-Lisa Coberger joined the police (to deal with the pissed rather than the piste). Another I was fortunate to bump into last week. Andrew Nicholson was one of those names you always heard every winter Olympics (1992, 1994, 1998). Part of a top squad of speed skaters that also included his brother Chris, an athlete who should be much more famous as one of the only New Zealanders to compete in both summer and winter Olympics (he was also part of the cycling team in 1992). Andrew is now an enthusiastic first year teacher at Karoro school, passing on his knowledge and experience to the next generation. I worked with him last week when his class visited the outdoor educaton centre.

Sportsmen like this have always fascinated. So focussed on the detail of their performance, they seem different from the rest of us. Intense and sometimes a little serious, they have the ability to put their performance first. As the coach of a national sporting team (orienteering), I have to say in my sport we certainly don't have many of these characters, our culture is more laid back, more flexible and dare I say it less high achieving. My moral dilemma is can I really insist on the commitment top sportsmen in other codes display. Is the long term outcome really worth it for the athletes? My answer is no, but we can give them an opportunity to go down the path. We can help remove obstacles that their self motivation is driving themselves against and if we think of their best interests we can advise moderation, or at least keep their options open. I wonder how many of New Zealand's best coaches have done this...Duncan Laing? Lydiard? Richard Tonks?

I looked through the list of our Olympic medalists from this year and wondered how they are going now. Some are looked after sure, but some will fall through the cracks. Considering the happiness we all got from these performances maybe we need to revisit how we look after these people when there careers are finished, by this I don't necessarily just mean money.

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